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"GIVE THE HOUSE BACK!!! GIVE THE HOUSE BACK!!!"

That was one of the slogans chanted by dozens of protesters gathered outside the Pasadena house of a Bank of America executive last week. The protesters were outraged over the alleged fraudulent foreclosure and sale of the home of a widowed mother and her five children. I attended the action, a joint effort by Los Angeles-based Occupy Fights Foreclosures (OFF) and the L.A. chapter of MoveOn.org. The action came a day before a nationwide protest outside BofA's annual shareholders meeting at the company's headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Dirma Rodriguez, whose story was featured in the Los Angeles Times, accuses BofA representatives of using high-pressure tactics to get her to sign away her rights to her home. The house had passed to BofA after the company acquired Countrywide. Rodriguez had taken out a loan to upgrade the house to accommodate her severely disabled daughter, Ingrid. While awaiting a permanent loan modification, Rodriguez's payments jumped, and she soon fell behind. The bank foreclosed on the property, and evicted the family in March. The home was then sold at auction. OFF, with the help of MoveOn LA, tried and failed to get a meeting with Raul Anaya, BofA's regional vice president for corporate responsibility, to discuss the Rodriguez family's case. The decision was then made to stage a protest outside Anaya's Pasadena home and "fraudulently foreclose" on his property.

Rodriguez (pictured in white, at center left above) and her children quietly arrived at the serene, tree-lined neighborhood leading a group of 100 Occupy and MoveOn LA protesters and local press. The marchers held fists into the air as a show of solidarity. Dirma knocked on Anaya's door several times, but got no response. Apparently, he wasn't home. Protesters then pasted fake foreclosure signs onto the door and garage.

   

Protesters then stood on both sides of Anaya's street with banners and signs as a few neighbors looked on. As cars slowly proceeded down the street, protesters handed the occupants flyers about the foreclosure crisis.

Alongside the Rodriguez family, Occupiers Carlos Marroquin and Suzanne O'Keeffe then held a press conference. They outlined the accusations made by the family against BofA, and a list of demands. The video shows the initial walk through the neighborhood by the Rodriguez family and Occupy marchers, the press conference, and the rally afterwards. FYI, Rodriguez's daughter, Ingrid, has severe cerebral palsy and frequently cries out during the conference.

The action landed on the front page of the Pasadena Star-News. The next day, on the day of the shareholders meeting, MoveOn chapters around the country held demonstrations outside BofA branches. I and other MoveOn LA members held a silent demonstration, shown below, outside a branch in downtown Los Angeles. We stood with our banner and signs during the busy lunch hour, and signed up people to get involved in future actions. One chapter member noted that some of the bank workers shot us cold looks. But I said that I didn't care; BofA needed to be put on notice that corrupt behavior will no longer be tolerated by the people.

Hopefully, BofA will do the right thing and make Dirma Rodriguez and her family whole by returning the house to them and renegotiating the loan. Meanwhile, MoveOn LA made the decision to be involved in the war against the corrupt U.S. banking industry for the long haul. In the latest in a long line of industry incompetence, it was reported that JPMorgan Chase lost $2 billion from bad trades. We as Americans have to ask ourselves, how long are our lawmakers going to continue to allow these too-big-to-fail institutions escape accountability? How long are we going to tolerate our lawmakers giving special treatment to bank executives who abuse their customers and believe they are above the law? We must demand anti-trust legislation be used against BofA, JPMorgan Chase and other too-big-to-fail banks, so that they are broken up. We must re-instate the Glass-Steagall Act. We must end the legalized bribery of political candidates by corporate interests. We must consider alternatives to the big commercial banks, such as credit unions and publicly-owned banks. In the meantime, the foreclosures must end.

For more information about the Save Our Neighborhoods Act (H.R. 4848), go to http://nationalmoratorium.org/.

If you live in the Los Angeles area and want to get involved in fixing the foreclosure crisis and fighting the big banks, go to http://www.occupyfightsforeclosures.org/. To get involved with MoveOn LA, go to http://www.moveonla.org/.

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